Since the doctrine of hell is a difficult and complex subject of debate, it is not my intention to delve into any major disputes with Bell's views on whether punishment is conditional or unending. However, I will say that Bell's analysis is naive at best. And its not so much what Bell says is incorrect, but what he doesn't say.
While Bell isn't incorrect in how he defines the relevant biblical words (i.e. hell, sheol, etc.), I think he misses some important points in various contexts. Luke 16 is one of these places. While he says a few interesting things about this passage, his primary point is flawed:
"In their previous life, the rich man saw himself as better than Lazarus, and now, in hell, the rich man still sees himself as above Lazarus. It's no wonder Abraham says there's a chasm that can't be crossed. The chasm is the rich man's heart! It hasn't changed, even in death and torment and agony." (p. 75)While its quite true that the ethical aspects of this parable are there in how we should treat our neighbors; it is not the case that this is the chasm that Bell seems to imply. Moreover, the parable goes against one of Bell's key points in this book; that there are second chances after death. How Bell misses this aspect of the parable is beyond me. But it is quite clear that the parable emphasizes one important thing: the rich man's request for mercy is refused. Therefore, it is of eternal importance that we embrace the gospel and love our neighbors right now, or else it might be too late.
"Jesus did not use hell to try to compel 'heathens' and 'pagans' to believe in God, so they wouldn't burn when they die." (p. 82)Bell couldn't be more wrong in this admission because Jesus did this very thing in Luke 12:4-8,
“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.“But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!“Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God.“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God;”Notice that Jesus, after providing the warnings of hell, compels His audience to confess Him before men. While Bell does admit that Jesus provided stern warnings of judgment, it is not the case that the judgments are not a means by which Jesus compelled his audience to repent.
One thing seems to be clear thus far; Bell holds to some form of conditional punishment. However, he not only seems to set himself against the traditional view of hell, but against the annihilationist who believes that the judgment of the wicked is final.